One inevitable question that was put to various figures in the Tory Party in the wake of last week’s local elections, and the success of UKIP, was over the future of (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries, at present representing Mid Bedfordshire as an independent, following the removal of the party whip. She is very keen to get that whip back. The party’s response has not been so enthusiastic.
To no surprise at all, the fragrant Nadine was available for interview and comment, despite not having been involved in the elections at any level – Bedfordshire did not go the polls last week – to remind anyone who would listen that she was a conservative, and moreover had always been a conservative. Would she be joining UKIP? This question was, as ever, bodyswerved.
When Home Secretary Theresa May was asked about Ms Dorries, though, she was non-committal. In fact, she did not appear concerned. At all. Why should this be? Ah well. There is the ongoing matter of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) investigation, which has yet to reach its conclusion. This has been going on for an unusually long time.
Why this should be is not clear, although I hear that IPSA have, during the course of their enquiries, unearthed at least one more item which they may be pursuing further. Of course, even if they were to conclude that there had been wrongdoing, that would not mean the Tories would have to look for someone else to fight Mid Bedfordshire next time round. But their lack of concern is telling.
Moreover, although party chairman Grant “Spiv” Shapps has thus far resisted a number of complaints about her behaviour – I’ve been given to understand that several have been made – this does not mean Dorries is in the clear. For starters, Shapps is not first choice for the job with Lynton Crosby, and it is Crosby who has the ear of Young Dave right now.
And, even though the local party has, shall we say, an interest in Ms Dorries remaining as its MP, the national party will have done its calculations. With a majority that size, the Tories could easily dump her, install a less controversial replacement, and still hold the seat comfortably next time. This brings us to the possibility of her joining Nigel “Thirsty” Farage as UKIP’s first MP.
But do they want her? Gone are the days when Robert Kilroy-Silk could march in and disrupt proceedings. The speed at which they removed Paul “Privacy is for paedos” McMullan from the candidates’ list in Kent shows that UKIP knows it can be picky about who comes on board – and that, if the party wants to be taken seriously in the longer term, it must keep on being picky.
Nadine Dorries isn’t a problem for the Tories, or UKIP. She’s becoming a side-show.